April 24, 2024
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Virtually nothing about Tara VanDerveer’s dwelling would indicate a basketball coach, not to mention one who’s about to turn into the winningest faculty basketball coach ever, has resided there for practically 30 years. The muted yellow partitions and decor — a number of giant framed florals painted years in the past by a good friend — are tasteful however minimal. The espresso desk books are largely Nationwide Geographic journey tomes.

Her dwelling fitness center shows some memorabilia, however the one room which may really give it away is her “workplace,” a beneficiant time period because it extra intently resembles a windowless walk-in closet. However that is VanDerveer’s desire — understated and neatly organized (although VanDerveer calls the workplace itself, typically stuffed to the brim, “a catastrophe”). Occasionally, she’ll show on her fridge a photograph of herself sitting with former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and former UCLA and Cal State Fullerton coach Billie Moore — three Corridor of Famers — as a reminder to take pleasure in day-after-day. However the sparse memorabilia and occasional picture are the one slightest clues {that a} quite profitable coach calls this place dwelling.

For VanDerveer, the crown jewels of her home are the seven redwood bushes within the yard. They stretch upward like forestial skyscrapers, transplanted into her property 12 years in the past and grown significantly since then. 5 are youthful bushes, however the two eldest are seemingly north of 70 years outdated, similar to VanDerveer. Infrequently, she finds herself strolling across the yard along with her canines, Piper and Enzo, gazing skyward, admiring the sturdy giants which have come to face up to time, drought and fireplace.

“They’re lovely bushes; they’re very resilient bushes,” VanDerveer says. “Their roots develop beneath and so they help one another. They’re actually tall, however they remind me of a workforce in that they’re holding one another up.”

There have been no redwoods within the Northeastern or Midwestern states the place VanDerveer spent the vast majority of her early life — a childhood in Massachusetts and New York, her early years in faculty basketball at Indiana, Idaho and Ohio State. However when she moved to Northern California in 1985 to turn into Stanford’s head coach, she was awestruck by the mighty redwoods.

There’s no definitive reason redwoods develop so tall. A part of it’s their lifespans; some age as much as 2,000 years largely resulting from their bark, which protects them from illness, and a thick husk that shields them towards fires. They’re fully totally different from most different bushes in that means. However why they attain such heights? Nobody is aware of precisely.

Within the Nineteen Sixties when creator John Steinbeck traveled throughout the nation and came across Northern California, he wrote, “The redwoods, as soon as seen, go away a mark or create a imaginative and prescient that stays with you at all times. … From them comes silence and awe. It’s not solely their unbelievable stature, nor the colour which appears to shift and differ underneath your eyes, no, they don’t seem to be like several bushes we all know, they’re ambassadors from one other time.”

VanDerveer sees her greatest groups as these redwoods. Gamers who stood on their very own, however whose roots stretched underground and towards each other, supporting one another whereas withstanding drought and fireplace, turning into ambassadors of a altering sport. If this is so, then she is that mysterious factor answering the query: How do they develop so tall?


From Idaho to iconic titles: Prime 10 Tara VanDerveer moments as Stanford coach nears all-time wins file

“It was her excessive requirements, which begin with herself,” says Jennifer Azzi, who performed for VanDerveer at Stanford from 1986-90 and received a gold medal with VanDerveer within the 1996 Olympics. “If there’s one phrase that describes her it’s excellence. Excellence in each single factor she does and makes an attempt. … That has by no means modified over time. She has by no means compromised herself or her values.”

Few coaches have lasted as lengthy on a sideline as she, and so they solely obtained there by discovering these particular gamers and creating groups. Principally, they keep by profitable. It was possibly the primary lesson she realized in basketball. With no ladies’ groups to play on, the golden rule she realized throughout pick-up video games on the park: Winner stays. It stays true in faculty teaching, too.

On Sunday, she may go former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski because the winningest faculty basketball coach of all time with 1,203 wins. Even to her, that quantity is difficult to understand. She didn’t got down to get to this pinnacle, however right here she is. For each 100 wins, Stanford offered her with a custom-painted basketball. Ultimately, she had so many she needed to transfer them from a bookshelf to a wall shelf, and now that shelf — which stretches throughout the complete size of her workplace — homes all 12 basketballs. It could actually’t get any longer at this level, so she simply retains shifting the basketballs nearer collectively.

She has 17 30-win seasons, greater than the remainder of the Pac-12 colleges mixed. She has received three nationwide titles and led the Cardinal to 14 Last Fours. She has been named the nationwide coach of the 12 months 5 occasions and the Pac-12 coach of the 12 months 17 occasions. VanDerveer has received extra video games than 344 Division I packages.

And whereas these numbers lay out the framework of this second, they don’t clarify how she obtained so far. To perform that, she has seemingly performed the inconceivable — remaining regular but always evolving, being versatile but obstinate within the ways in which mattered, remaining curious however by no means dropping her focus.

VanDerveer credit her mother and father — each educators — for educating her to worth training and relationships. She cites her mother’s knowledge — “be a duck, let it roll off your again” — along with her potential to maintain targeted on what issues most and attempting to not fret about the remainder.

She usually tells about an interview for a training job through which she was requested to clarify her philosophy. She responded: Work. When requested to increase, she mentioned: Arduous work.

As a coach, she maintained an ordinary irrespective of the workforce or season, from her JV squad at Ohio State to her nationwide championship groups in Palo Alto. Even in her first 12 months at Stanford — the one one in her 45 seasons with a dropping file — she operated the identical means. Stanford was rebuilding and never as elite as the college from which she had come, Ohio State, however she wished the workforce to bond and construct, to develop robust and tall. That was a non-negotiable. So she sought out suggestions for that development. She requested her gamers and assistants questions. She even pulled apart the workforce’s coach after follow to ask for her ideas on the day.

“She was at all times excited about different folks’s insights and observations,” mentioned Charli Turner Thorne, who performed for VanDerveer at Stanford from 1985-88 and coached towards her at Arizona State from 1996-2022. “We’re like, ‘Tara, the athletic coach doesn’t know something about basketball.’ However she was this visionary who was at all times trying to form her groups.”

When VanDerveer began at Stanford, there was no 3-point line within the faculty sport. The Cardinal, like many, used an influence method and took high-percentage pictures near the basket. However when the road was launched earlier than the 1987-88 season, VanDerveer did the straightforward math and knowledgeable her gamers they had been going to study exterior capturing. Inside 5 seasons, Stanford was making an attempt 13 a sport — a key a part of their first nationwide title run.

With the 3-point shot, VanDerveer and Stanford mastered the triangle offense. In 2008, Stanford performed UC Davis, which had simply transitioned to Division I. Stanford simply received by 35, however after the sport, VanDerveer pulled apart head coach Sandy Simpson and mentioned she was impressed with the mechanisms of the Princeton offense that UC Davis had run. Simpson pointed VanDerveer within the path of considered one of her younger assistants, Jennifer Gross.

“Right here I’m, a brand new assistant coach at a former Division II college, and Tara’s like, ‘Who can I speak to about studying this offense? Would you be capable to assist?’” mentioned Gross, now the UC Davis head coach. “It was a little bit of a ‘What’s going on right here?’ … However she’s like, ‘I’m going to study from anyone.’”

Over the subsequent a number of years, VanDerveer and Gross talked concerning the offense usually, with Gross and her husband, Joe Teramoto, making a number of journeys to Palo Alto to stroll by means of the offense on the ground and watch movie with VanDerveer. In 2021, the Cardinal received the nationwide title operating VanDerveer’s model of this offense.

In her private life, VanDerveer, 70, takes the identical method. In her 40s, she began piano classes and dove in. The trainer, Jodi Gandolfi recommended a 30-minute lesson. VanDerveer countered with 90 minutes. They compromised … at 90. With classes starting in February, VanDerveer requested Stanford’s workforce schedulers to make sure each road-game lodge had a piano obtainable so she may follow.

Gandolfi, who hadn’t labored with newbies in a long time, assumed that like most novices, VanDerveer would need to begin the place most newbies began — studying a easy track. However Gandolfi was struck by her pupil’s method. Recalled Gandolfi: “She wished to discover ways to follow. She wished to study music concept.”

Whereas at Stanford, VanDerveer took up swimming laps and visited the pool three mornings per week. On mornings when Olympians like Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel had been of their lanes, she’d research their kind and evaluate it to her personal. When VanDerveer purchased a ski boat a couple of decade in the past, she sought out expert ski companions who’d hit the water along with her each summer time morning and supply suggestions on her approach.

Tara VanDerVeer applauds her workforce through the 2009 Last 4 sport towards Connecticut. (Tim Vizer / Tribune Information Service by way of Getty Pictures)

However, as in hoops, a lot about VanDerveer stays unchanged. Particularly, the haircut, the long-lasting bob that has been her signature search for a long time. When she moved to Palo Alto, VanDerveer had a stylist reduce her hair, however when that girl retired, the stylist’s daughter started reducing it. Nobody else has had VanDerveer in a salon chair since.

“There’s slight variation, however it’s fairly related,” VanDerveer admits.

Previously few seasons, faculty sports activities has modified at a faster-than-ever tempo. NIL was launched. The switch portal opened up. And subsequent season, VanDerveer and the Cardinal will be part of the ACC because the Pac-12 (because it’s presently arrange) will fold. “She simply actually understands the large image,” says Stanford affiliate head coach Kate Paye, who performed for VanDerveer from 1991-95. “It isn’t all about profitable for her, it’s about constructing lifetime relationships and mentoring girls and empowering girls.”


She has stayed on prime of modifications and labored to shepherd the subsequent technology of girls’s basketball, its gamers and coaches. Her latest groups have loosely shaped committees on meals, journey and leisure so she will be able to take extra enter from the gamers. She has turn into a mentor and sounding board to not solely the coaches she is aware of properly, however even to these she doesn’t. This fall, when Florida State coach Brooke Wyckoff was recognized with breast most cancers, VanDerveer despatched her a hand-written letter. The 2 had by no means met. When the Cardinal performed Albany earlier this season, she recommended swapping scouting reviews so every workforce may study extra about themselves, one thing she has performed with a number of different nonconference opponents over time. When the Cardinals’ NCAA Event runs have ended early, she’s generally handed over her personal scouting reviews of potential March Insanity opponents to her fellow Pac-12 coaches.

Most of this has been performed with out fanfare or consideration — the way in which she likes it.

When VanDerveer handed Pat Summitt to turn into the winningest girls’s faculty basketball coach within the 2020-21 season, the Cardinal had been on the street at Pacific with no followers within the crowd due to pandemic protocols. The bench was spaced with six toes between every chair. Everybody wore masks besides the gamers on the ground. Her achievement was met with a subdued celebration that included solely the workforce. Admittedly, VanDerveer loved the intimacy of that.

Gamers offered her with a fleece jacket to put on to the pool. “T-DAWG,” it learn on the again.

This subsequent milestone can be totally different. Stanford is celebrating alumni weekend with dozens of former gamers coming into city. Pomp and circumstance, two phrases VanDerveer doesn’t love, can be directed at her. Even with No. 8 Stanford at 15-2, VanDerveer has been becoming in interviews and photoshoots in each spare second. Everybody needs to know the secrets and techniques to her success, needs to know the way she did it.

In contrast to the redwoods, the reply is sort of apparent.

She developed however stayed the identical. She was versatile but unwavering. She remained a pupil and a trainer whose roots have allowed her to lastly attain heights that no others have.

(Illustration and information visible: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photographs of Tara VanDerveer: Cody Glenn / Icon Sportswire, Jack Dempsey / Getty Pictures)